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Movies: November 15, 2013

Capsule reviews of ”About Time,” ”Ender’s Game,” and more

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12 Years a Slave
R, 2 Hrs., 14 Mins.
Agonizingly magnificent. As a free black man sold into slavery, the great Chiwetel Ejiofor places us right inside his skin. A Owen Gleiberman

About Time
R, 2 Hrs., 4 Mins.
A British fumbler (Domhnall Gleeson) learns he can leap back in time, and he uses his gift to steer his courtship of an American (Rachel McAdams). It’s enchanting for a while, but finally more affectionate than dramatic. B Owen Gleiberman

All Is Lost
PG-13, 1 Hr., 47 Mins.
A man-stranded-at-sea film, starring an amazing Robert Redford. A Owen Gleiberman

Blue Is the Warmest Color
NC-17, 2 Hrs., 59 Mins.
In this controversial French drama about two women in love, the raw portrayal of infatuation and heartbreak is devastating and sublime. A-Leah Greenblatt

Captain Phillips
PG-13, 2 Hrs., 14 Mins.
Paul Greengrass’ spiky true-life tale of a cargo ship overtaken by Somali pirates. B+Owen Gleiberman

Dallas Buyers Club
R, 1 Hr., 57 Mins.
Matthew McConaughey gives a harrowing performance as a good ol’ boy diagnosed with HIV in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. B Chris Nashawaty

Ender’s Game
PG-13, 1 Hr., 54 Mins.
Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi best-seller about a gifted young loner (Hugo‘s Asa Butterfield) who holds the fate of Earth in his hands gets a lavish, eye-candy adaptation. But the clunky story doesn’t match the film’s visual ambition. Harrison Ford lends his foghorn growl as a seemingly paternal colonel willing to risk the boy’s soul for the sake of our doomed planet. C+Chris Nashawaty

Go for Sisters
Not Rated, 2 Hrs., 2 Mins.
Seventeen years after Lone Star, writer-director John Sayles crosses the Mexican border again with this slow-burn thriller about a California parole officer (LisaGay Hamilton) whose son has been kidnapped by brutal Chinese gangsters in Tijuana. All the colorfully lurid ingredients are here (drugs, cockfighting, human trafficking), so why does the film feel a bit flat? B- ——Chris Nashawaty

Gravity
PG-13, 1 Hr., 31 Mins.
Two astronauts are lost in space in Alfonso Cuarón’s awesome technological daydream of a movie. AOwen Gleiberman

Great Expectations
PG-13, 2 Hrs., 8 Mins.
After a recent string of literary misfires — Anna Karenina and Romeo and Juliet come to mind — Mike Newell’s version of the Charles Dickens classic is a welcome exception. The heartrending story of orphan boy Pip’s (Jeremy Irvine) sudden change in circumstances remains mostly untouched, but stellar performances by Helena Bonham Carter as iconic shut-in Miss Havisham and Ralph Fiennes as the convict Magwitch are the only frills this adaptation needs. B+Stephan Lee

How I Live Now
R, 1 Hr., 41 Mins.
Saoirse Ronan, the icy-eyed 19-year-old ingenue from Atonement and Hanna, delivers another beautifully layered performance as a bratty American teen visiting her cousins in the English countryside when World War III breaks out. But Kevin Macdonald’s artsy slice of future shock never settles into a coherent groove — it can’t decide whether it’s a dewy Twilight romance or a Lord of the Flies survival tale. (Also available on iTunes and VOD) B-Chris Nashawaty

Last Vegas
PG-13, 1 Hr., 44 Mins.
Four cantankerous codgers reunite for a bachelor party in Vegas. You know you’re watching a comedy-as-market-tested-package, yet it’s reasonably competent. Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline display the soft-shoe touch of old pros who know how to let loose. B- Owen Gleiberman

The Motel Life
R, 1 Hr., 25 Mins.
One of those wayward, self-serious indie time-wasters that shouldn’t have been made. Emile Hirsch (dourly inexpressive) and Stephen Dorff (dourly overexpressive) play brothers who leave their Reno motel after a hit-and-run accident. The film has lots of boring backstory but no forward movement. That’s because the directors, Alan and Gabe Polsky, simply assume that we’re as possessed by the plight of these hapless losers as they are. (Also available on iTunes and VOD) DOwen Gleiberman

The Square
Not Rated, 1 Hr., 43 Mins.
Nearly three years after the Arab Spring swept through the streets of Cairo and brought down Hosni Mubarak, depressingly little has changed. Jehane Noujaim’s tinderbox doc returns to the Egyptian city’s beating heart, Tahrir Square, as protesters of all stripes risk their lives for a do-over. The Square is a powerful, you-are-there account of an oppressed nation’s hopes and dreams…even as that story’s ending remains unwritten. A- Chris Nashawaty